Does it matter that in the 21st century some have no access to sanitation? : Ivory tower method meets grassroots compassion
Design suggestions pouring from people’s hearts, have plastered the open ideo pages like one soulful prayer for those in West Africa, who have been ever-present in the minds of the teams. The proposals for solutions seem to be “seeping up” to the financed, influential institutions and then trickling back down to smaller-scale NGO efforts, albeit too slow for comfort.
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The impact of taking on a difficult, closer look at ebola is being able to collectively see clearly how this virus, which has been defying the sciences of medicine, logistics, anthropology, government, communication and design at deadly speed, has settled at the very crux of many deep divides (institutional/layperson, administrative/intuitive, developed/developing, urban/rural, scientific/traditional) making the fight against it a historical challenge for building understanding, broader healing.
The open ideo challenge has given us individuals the opportunity to volunteer research, ideas, and solutions outside the pressure of professional constraints, thus our imaginations can be freer than our counterparts in institutions, to ride the wave of compassion we have felt towards individuals suffering from and dealing with the ebola crisis in West Africa. Research behind the offered solutions also has channeled our collective fear of preparing for expanding outbreaks into useful proposals.
Yet glaring gaps keep popping up on Youtube, on twitter, on TV, in articles. No, large sums of money alone cannot solve the problems. Ebola is not only putting science to the test, but also testing the limits of the intelligence of our compassion, challenging our very “skillful means”.
Whether it’s building dry toilets, anti-contamination barriers, cooling PPEs, or making the special needs of child sufferers of ebola a priority, the disparity between the immediacy of being “on the ground” and working on an aid budget document or the minutes of an ebola meeting, must be bridged. Partnerships, sponsors, shippers must navigate the grassroots ideas beyond the “virtual tower” to get them where people need them.
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Cross-fertilization of ideas is abundant on open ideo. Concerning sanitation, Chris Canady’s strong push for ecological solutions to sanitation is a great model, although perhaps after the epidemic is contained when the risk of contamination is lower. Further collaborating with Vanessa Counaert and Corey and the other team members working on sanitation helped face this key, yet highly ignored, subject of sanitation through several different proposals.
Craig Provost & Anita’s skype conversations and drawings brought the ideas behind “humanizing childcare” to life for a few easy-to-accomplish touches to isolation units.
James Gien Varney-Wang’s team at the Ebola Community Action Room using the Kerika mind map and detailed, international skype meetings has been a breakthrough not only in creating targeted, global conversations, but also in understanding what is happening on the ground and tying solutions to the real, most urgent needs.
Contacted NGOs have seemed too specialized or overburdened and not really looking for new on-the-ground proposals.
The media, specialized websites, social networks and web applications have been KEY to sharing knowledge of the ebola context to help move towards the end aim: practical impact of the open ideo ideas to protect, reduce sadness and suffering and save lives.
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Basically, the suggested rural dry toilet idea would be easy for a community, NGO or government to implement –the structure could even be made with re-worked scrap metal & could help with sanitation even after the ebola crisis. Plastic bags could be replaced later by canvass sacks waterproofed with paraffin or beeswax to make a more ecological alternative to be buried rather than incinerated. Likewise, avoiding going barefoot in rural villages could help avoid contamination in areas of open defecation. (see attachment)
The humanizing childcare suggestion needs some re-working in terms of cultural codes. In a conversation with a West African, some animal toys might give off a scary feeling, whereas dolls or models from the plant kingdom could be more comforting. Another local point: as children in West Africa are used to seeing masked figures, the PPE suit might take on another, more habitual meaning for them. Seeing if copper yarn is appropriate (healthwise), and not too expensive for children's toys would be good. A child psychologist from West Africa would be a good person to get feedback from. Any sponsors who could quickly produce and implement these ideas for the children of West Africa would be great. (see attached powerpoint)